Friday, December 23, 2005

LESSONS IN TANYA: Shabbat, December 24, 2005


Due to Shabbat observance, the Shabbat edition of Lessons In Tanya is sent on Friday. Shabbat Shalom!

Kislev 23, 5766 * December 24, 2005


Today's Lesson:

Likutei Amarim
(Conclusion of Chapter One)

As for the well-known saying (22) that one [whose deeds and misdeeds are] equally balanced is called a Beinoni, while [he who has] a majority of virtues outweighing his sins is called a tzaddik, this is [only] a borrowed name, [i.e., a figurative use of the term borrowed from its true usage in order to emphasize a particular point. Thus the names Beinoni and tzaddik, denoting a balance between merits and sins, are in fact but borrowed names] used in regard to reward and punishment, because one is judged according to the majority [of his deeds], and he is termed "righteous" in reference to his verdict, since he is acquitted at his trial.

[It is only in this legal sense that the term tzaddik is applied to one who performs more good deeds than evil.]

If, however, we seek to truly define the distinct qualities and ranks of tzaddikim and Beinonim, our Sages have remarked that the righteous are "judged" [i.e., motivated and ruled, solely] by their good nature, as it is written, (23) "And my heart is slain within me," meaning that he [i.e., David, the author of this verse] was devoid of an evil nature, having slain it through fasting.

[David extirpated his evil nature through fasting; other ways too are possible.

We thus see from the Gemara that the definition of tzaddik in its true sense applies to the person who has rid himself of his evil nature.]

But whoever has not attained this degree [of ridding himself of his evil nature], even though his virtues outnumber his sins, is not at all at the level and rank of tzaddik.

[In fact, not only has he not reached the rank of tzaddik: he has not yet attained even the level of Beinoni, as has been demonstrated above.]

This is why our Sages have expounded: (24) "The Almighty saw that the righteous were few, so He arose and planted [i.e., and spread] them in every generation," [for,] as it is written, (25) "The tzaddik is the foundation of the world."

[Thus, in each generation there must be a tzaddik who serves as the "foundation of the world."

This paucity of tzaddikim ("The righteous were few") can be explained only if a tzaddik is he who has totally rid himself of his evil nature. Were the term tzaddik to mean one whose good deeds outweigh the evil, why then do our Sages say that "the righteous were few," when the overwhelming majority of Jews have more good deeds than evil!]

However, the explanation of the matter, [so that we better understand the levels of tzaddik and Beinoni, as well as the various gradations within their ranks, is to be found] in light of what Rabbi Chayim Vital wrote in Shaar HaKedushah (and in Etz Chayim, Portal 5, ch. 2) - that every Jew, whether righteous or wicked, possesses two souls, as it is written, (26) "And neshamot (souls) which I have made."

[Though the verse speaks of an individual Jew (as is indicated by the singular form of the word ruach (spirit) in the preceding phrase, "When the spirit of a man which emanates from Me will be humbled.."), the plural term souls is nevertheless used, in dicating that every Jew possesses two souls.]

These are two nefashot (27) - two souls and life-forces.

One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.

["Kelipah" means a shell or peel. G-d created forces which conceal the G-dly life-force found in all creation as a peel covers and conceals a fruit. "Sitra achra" means "the other side" - the side of creation that is the antithesis of holiness and purity. (The two terms are generally synonymous.)

It is this nefesh [which originates in the kelipah and sitra achra] that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body; as it is written, (28). "For the nefesh of the flesh [i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life] is in the blood."

From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.

[Just as the four physical elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth are the foundation of all physical entities, so too is this nefesh comprised of four corresponding spiritual elements. Since they derive from kelipah and evil, they themselves are evil, and from them in turn one's evil characteristics come into being.]

Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards; [Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.]

The appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.

[The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.]

Frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; [like air, they lack substance]; and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.

[Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.]

From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew's character, such as compassion and benevolence. [But since this is a nefesh of kelipah and evil, how do good characteristics come from it? This matter is now addressed.]

For in the [case of the] Jew, this soul of kelipah is derived from the kelipah called "nogah", which also contains good; [and the good within this nefesh gives rise to these positive natural traits.]

[This kelipah] is from the esoteric "Tree of Knowledge" [which is comprised] of good and evil. (29)

The souls of the nations of the world, however, emanate from the other, unclean kelipot which contain no good whatever, as is written in Etz Chayim, Portal 40, ch. 3, that all the good that the nations do, is done out of selfish motives.

[Since their nefesh emanates from kelipot which contain no good, it follows that any good done by them is for selfish motives.]

So the Gemara (30) comments on the verse, (31) "The kindness of the nations is sin" - that all the charity and kindness done by the nations of the world is only for their self-glorification...

[When a Jew acts in a benevolent manner he is motivated mainly out of concern for the welfare of his fellow. The proof of this is that were his fellow not to need his help, this would give him greater pleasure than the gratification derived from his act of kindness.

Concerning the nations of the world, however, this is not so. Their motivation is not the welfare of their fellow; rather, it stems from a self-serving motive - the desire for self-glorification, a feeling of gratification, and the like.

It should be noted that among the nations of the world there are also to be found those whose souls are derived from kelipat nogah. (32) Called "the pious ones of the nations of the world," these righteous individuals are benevolent not out of selfish motives but out of a genuine concern for their fellow.


22. See Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:1; Rashi on Rosh HaShanah 16b.
23. Tehillim 109:22. See ch. 13 for the comment of the Rebbe on
the interpretation of this verse.
24. Cf. Yoma 38b.
25. Mishlei 10:25.
26. Yeshayahu 57:16.
27. The Rebbe notes: The addition of the words, "These are
two nefashot," makes it clear that the two souls possessed by
every Jew are not necessarily of the soul-level of Neshamah, the
third highest of the five soul-levels (viz., Nefesh , Ruach,
Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah), for this soul-level is not
necessarily found in every Jew, and certainly not in his animal
soul. Rather, this refers to the essential soul-level of Nefesh
possessed by every Jew.
28. Vayikra 17:11.
29. See Zohar I, 12b.
30. Bava Batra 10b.
31. Mishlei 14:34.
32. See Siddur Im D'ach, Shaar Chag HaMatzot; Likutei Biurim (by Rabbi
Hillel Malisov of Paritch), 47b.


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